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Last of the Power Metal - 82%

The_CrY, February 12th, 2010

After an adventure of polishing their sound and balancing their albums, Sonata Arctica seems to have discovered the secret of their genre and is now experimenting a little with it, trying to push the borders. While still pleasing the fans of their older albums they have changed a few things in their performance, and I believe we need to look back at this album from this day to be able to understand what they did.

So here we are, the final power metal album by Sonata Arctica, the Finnish band, or legend by now, that seemed to have conquered the hearts of many melodic metal fans. What come to attention immediately are the rawer guitars and vocals. Was Sonata getting tired of their overpolished speedy sound? I believe so. Not only does the album feel terribly uninspired at times, it also feels like they are a bit bored with making the same old power metal over and over again. Seeing what they did in 2007, I believe I’m not totally wrong by stating these things. They wanted a change for sure, and this album is still power metal, with subtle hints to their 2007 album Unia.

Not only the heavier guitar and vocal sounds are a cry for a change, but also the vocal melodies. They are mostly still the sing-along anthems we are used to, but now vocalist Tony Kakko tends to step out of line and do a weird melody in between more often. He also sings more with multiple voices, something that would feature a lot more on later albums. I said sometimes they even sound like they were uninspired, or tired. That is very audible on the beginnings of “Don’t Say a Word” and “Wrecking the Sphere”. It sounds like ‘oh, we have to make it fast again, of course’. The songs turn out to be real nice ones in the end, but still.

Enough moaning about changes, is the album good? Well, yes, the album is very good. The balance is still present, nicely varying fast from slow, or mid-tempo. It contains good fast songs like “Misplaced”, “Ain’t Your Fairytale” and “Wildfire”, there is a very beautiful ballad in the shape of “Shamandalie”, and there are a few epics like “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet”, which has clear progressive influences, and “White Pearl, Black Oceans”, an 8-minute lasting story about a ghost ship, as I understood. The last mentioned is a true fan favorite, but I believe it’s severely overrated. Sure, the song is good, but it’s way too long and slightly overdone. Especially near the end, when they reach for the chorus one more time and throw a double bass drum underneath it. I’m glad they’ve stopped doing those things nowadays. Furthermore there is a black sheep in the shape of “Blinded No More”, which is a mid-tempo song with a progressive hue to it. It doesn’t sound like any of the other songs on the album, and hints heavily to the forthcoming album Unia in 2007, though the overall ambience is still the ‘old’ Sonata.

To get a little into details, I will describe the album highlights. Since I feel the quality in songs is very equally spread among the songs, it’s pretty hard to find highlights. Nevertheless I’ll begin with “Ain’t Your Fairytale”. Seemingly just another fast power metal song, but contains an immensely cool guitar riff just after the chorus. The song itself is about a pack of wolves attacking a village, but getting caught. If this one deserves a mention, then surely does “Don’t Say a Word”. It’s the sequel to Silence’s “The End of This Chapter”, and therefore continues the story about the pathetic stalker, this time in the shape of a fast song. Having no typical intro to give you time to orient, it starts right away. The song itself doesn’t really become interesting until the chorus, which is one their finest to date. Then there is “Wildfire”. It starts off with a cheesy conversation which concludes they’re going to set something on fire. Then the bomb explodes with a heavy and aggressive theme accompanied by a deep Hammond organ. Although this kind of organ also appears on “Misplaced”, I think it’s much cooler on this song. Last of the highlights is Japan-only track “Wrecking the Sphere”. It starts off with a keyboard intro, and then kicks off with the familiar double bass. A little forced at first, but then when the bridges and the solo’s begin you’ll be sold. The epic keyboard solo at the end adds the finishing touch to the last song off the album, and closes to power metal chapter to the Sonata Arctica career with style.

To make a relatively long story short, Reckoning Night is Sonata Arctica’s last power metal effort. It’s obviously trademark Sonata, but hints subtly towards their next album Unia. Still, if you like Sonata Arctica or just power metal as a whole, you would like this album.

Stronger songs: “Ain’t Your Fairytale”, “Wildfire”, “Shamandalie” and “Wrecking the Sphere”.